Dear Seattle CAO Susan Enfield, 9-15-2009
I see that you will be addressing the School Board tomorrow night.
B. Chief Academic Officer’s Update (S. Enfield) - WASL Update
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Program Update
Normally these addresses about the WASL appear to be exercises in Cherry-Picking, where the good is highlighted and other things ignored. The WASL is not much of a math test but it is about all we have because the SPS has refused to publicly release the PSAT results from fall 2008. Please note the when Everyday Math (May 2007) was adopted specific references were made to closing grade 4 achievement gaps from WASL 2006. After one year of EDM use every grade 4 WASL math achievement gap increased from the already unacceptable 2006 levels and at the end of year two all of these gaps except one had increased even further. Yet no one is held accountable. The fact is these scores are never mentioned except by me.
In the June of 2008 the Strategic Plan stated:
Immediate Actions
• Math: A Math Project Team will develop an implementation plan and timeline for action during summer 2008. Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations will be completed this summer.
Except the Everyday Math pacing plan was the k-5 math curriculum during 2008-2009 NOT the new State Performance Expectations.
When I began my year in the SPS (2006-2007) in my initial interview for a “Pathways math” teaching position, it was apparent that the “Stand and Deliver” model was out and the “small group inquiry” “guide on the side” model was in. This “small group inquiry” was the “Best Practice” that the SPS was pushing for mathematics. (SPS ignores PFT, NMAP, and Hattie’s “Visible Learning” preferring make-believe best practices for math)
Despite a continually enlarging achievement gap over the preceding decade, in 2006 and 2007 it was believed that more in-service, professional development, and coaching would bring success.
The PD^3 collaboration between UW math, UW College of Education, and the Seattle Schools centered on small group problem centered inquiry using “IMP” materials. The “PD^3” results at Garfield were unimpressive and at Cleveland disastrous. For ELL students the results could hardly have been worse.
The majority of school directors inexplicably continue to trust that the Central Administration actions in regard to mathematics have merit despite a decade plus of evidence to the contrary. “Club Ed” fads and failed ideology have driven and continue to drive instructional materials selections and practices.
The empirical evidence continually points to the failure of SPS math direction. It seemed absurd to focus on vertical alignment k-12 in the high school math adoption when the k-8 program served educationally disadvantaged learners so poorly. The fact that the k-12 direction, practices, and instructional materials are so far removed from NMAP recommendations and the work of several cognitive psychologists (Geary, Sweller, Willingham) goes unaddressed by the SPS. There is no SPS accountability in fact there is no creditable response.
Here is Daniel Willingham’s Sept 14, 2009 interview from the Washington Post:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/daniel-willingham/the-big-idea-behind-learning.html
On May 19, 2004 the School Board signed a document about institutionalized racism. In the next 5 years the SPS continued to use mathematics practices known to be ineffective for disadvantaged learners (Project Follow Through etc.).
The SPS current definition of mathematics continues this SPS tradition of discrimination:
Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.
The State of Washington has a “plan” at OSPI:
Plan to Close the Academic Achievement Gap for African American Students (PDF)
Except this “plan” when read it is NOT a plan for there are no actions recommended that will impact daily life in the classroom. We have in place a large number of agents that do nothing to impact the achievement gaps in mathematics but claim to be involved in that work.
Recently an opinion article appeared in the Seattle Times by Seattle teacher Mr. Michael Sparks: Discovery-based math makes a difference in performance of U.S. students
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2009808738_guest07sparks.html
Mr. Michael Sparks” article is correctly labeled opinion as it has little in the way of logic or correct analysis in his praise for “Discovery-based Mathematics”.
It states: “And 12 years later down the road of reform? How goes it? Although we have now shot up — exponentially, by any stretch of the imagination —“
It ends with: “All things considered, however, the critics have failed to fully engage, discern, understand and appreciate the value and marvelous qualities and outcomes of programs like Connected Math2 when done well.
However one views the performance of the Seattle school district in these matters, the CM2 program itself, for all its imperfections, is of a world-class lineage and quality.”
The comparisons made are between TIMSS results in 1995 and 2007. The link between improved results and reform math is NOT demonstrated as:
1.. How much more reform math was in use in 2007 than 1995?
2.. Was there the exponential improvement that Mr. Sparks mentioned?
Previously I’ve informed the board that the 1995 nations and the 2007 nations are markedly different groups. The 1995 to 2007 difference is every nation added was academically weak with the exception of Taipei, Taiwan.
http://nces.ed.gov/timss/results07_math95.asp
There was no measurable change in the percentage of either U.S. fourth- or eighth-graders performing at or above the advanced international benchmark in mathematics between 1995 and 2007 (grade four: 9 v. 10 percent; grade eight: 4 v. 6 percent).
Seven countries had higher percentages of fourth-grade students performing at or above the advanced international mathematics benchmark than the United States. The percentages in these countries ranged from 16 percent in the Russian Federation to 41 percent in Singapore.
Seven countries had higher percentages of eighth-grade students performing at or above the advanced international mathematics benchmark than the United States. The percentages in these countries ranged from 8 percent in the Russian Federation to 45 percent in Chinese Taipei.
A major goal should be to increase the mathematical preparedness of students a significant measure of this is the ability to score at or above the advanced international benchmark.
When the USA at grade 8 goes from 4% advanced to 6% advanced and the USA at grade 4 goes from 9% advanced to 10% advanced over 12 years, this is NOT exponential growth. In 2007 at grade 4 USA 10% scored advanced and Singapore 41%. (
at the current rate of improvement of 1% every 12 years the USA will be at 41% in 372 years)
In 2007 at grade 8 USA scored 6% advanced and Taipei scored 45%. (
at the 2% improvement rate the USA will be at 45% in 234 years) This is clearly not exponential growth on the part of USA mathematics. Why Mr. Sparks would think so is beyond my understanding.
Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Seoul, and Seattle are all major cities but only one of these refuses to use an internationally competitive mathematics curriculum and thus the poor results to show it. Why does the SPS continually refuse to adopt an internationally competitive math curriculum that uses internationally competitive materials and practices?
The good news for WASL 2009 k-12 SPS math is that only 26.3% (in 2006 this was at 32.4%) of students now fail to score above level 1 on the 8th grade math WASL (ELL = 62.6%, Blacks 47.5%, Hispanics 44.4%, Low Income 44.4% these are all improvements from 2006). The significant bad news is that at grade 10 in WASL math only Cleveland (at 21.2% passing) saw an increase in math WASL pass rate in 2009. All other comprehensive high schools saw declining WASL math passing-rates as did Nova -4.0, Center -17.5, and Summit -22.2.
There is neither accountability nor transparency when it comes to math education in Seattle. I hope that you begin to address this ongoing failure. If I may be of assistance please contact me. The PSAT results from fall 2008 would be a great starting place for increased transparency.
Sincerely,
Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.